School of Science and Technology 科技學院
Computing Programmes 電腦學系

An Online Platform for Primary Students Learning Phonics

WU Hiu Man

ProgrammeBachelor of Science with Honours in Computing
SupervisorDr. Vanessa Ng
AreasE-learning Systems
Year of Completion2011

Objectives

This project aims at developing an interactive learning system, which is named as “PHONICS FUN”, for phonics self-learners in an interesting way. The Platform will provide a certain pack of animations, voices and games to increase the attractiveness of the learning environment. Phonics is a method to help learners to read and write in English. Most of Hong Kong students do not pronounce English correctly according to phonetic rules. They either rely on memory gained from previous learning experiences or simply by guessing.

This e-learning platform is designed to be an effective approach and usable for learners. It focuses on four main areas including listening, speaking, reading and writing. The platform will provide a set of colorful and practical materials, exercises and games to help learning Phonics. Students can study by themselves whenever, wherever and whatever they like. The architecture of the platform is shown in the following:

Background and Methodology

A background investigation is carried out to review some of the current e-learning systems on phonics including the Little-prince, English Builder, Fun Fonix, and Star full. The comparison and evaluation on the chosen e-learning systems in terms of attractiveness, interaction, graphic design and effectiveness is shown in detail below:

In this part, the methodology and the development of the proposed Phonics will be elaborated. The major elements that to be included as an effective interactive learning system is shown in the following:

The system architecture of” PHONICS FUN” is based on a view-controller model and is created by Flash, PHP, CSS and Action Script. Flash will be responsible for the annimation of showing the exercises and games. Whenever clients call the system, it will process on Flash only. If the archive data stored in the database is requested, then the Flash program will call upon AMFPHP to get the database data. The model is shown below for illustration purpose:

System Design and Implementation

A set of learning materials in form of an e-book model is developed in an interesting way with animations which encourage students to learn phonics. The e-book model consists of several features including bookmark function, auto play function and pronunciation function. After the model is built, developers can easily insert each page inside the model. The screen capture of the e-book model is shown in the following:

Besides the e-book, there are four additional interactive exercises in the learning tool including Vowel Match, Multiple Choice Question (MCQ) Exercises, Listening Exercises and a game of Roulette Match. The overall workflow is illustrated in the following:

The vowel match model is developed for users to practice the exercise by forming a specified vowel words. The features is listed in the following:

  • Each letter provided will be pronounced while a user drags the letter to the chick.
  • If the user formed is a word, no matter it is correctly spelled or not, the meaning will be checked and shown unless it is not a word. The word and the meaning can be pronounced.
  • Vowel match will help to list out the word which user entered in the specified category.
  • Unlimited letters can be added as a letter generation function.

The demonstration of the functions are shown in the following:

MCQ Exercise Model is developed for users to practice exercises in multiple choices. The features is listed in the following:

  • The question and the answer can be pronounced by Mary TTS service while the mouse cursor moves over those areas.
  • If the user does not answer the question, an alert will appear to Remind user to complete the question.
  • A user can generate the question and answer in random order.
  • Unlimited number of questions of the exercise. Administrators can insert a number of questions of exercise they want; it does not have specified limit.

The demonstration of the functions are shown in the following:

Listening Exercise Model is developed for users to practice listening to the pronunciation of a word and enter the correct answer. The features is listed in the following:

  • If the user answers, no matter it is correctly spelled or not, the meaning will be checked and shown unless it is not a word. The word and the meaning can be pronounced.
  • If the user does not answer the question, an alert will appear to Remind the user to complete the question.
  • Can generate the question and answer in random order.
  • Unlimited number of questions of the exercise. Administrators can insert a number of questions of exercise whenever they want; it does not have specified limit.

The demonstration of the functions are shown in the following:

The game of Roulette Match is developed for users to rotates the roulette and a word will be generated for the user to determine whether this is a word or not. The features is listed in the following:

  • If the user enters a word, no matter it is correctly spelled or not, the meaning will be checked and shown unless it is not a word. The word and the meaning can be pronounced.
  • If the user does not answer the question, user cannot restart the roulette.
  • Generate the word randomly.

The demonstration of the functions are shown in the following:

Evaluation

To investigate the users’ view on Phonics Fun, a set of questionnaire and interview have been conducted to collect users’ opinion. The question focuses on both Phonics Fun interface and quality. There are fourteen primary students, two university students and two teachers have been invited to experience Phonics Fun system. The occupation of interviewees is listed below:

The next part investigates which aspect among the exercises, assessments and games the interviewees like most. Most of them like Vowel Scramble and Vowel Match, because this two parts contain game features that attract the interviewees. The overall responses are summarised below:

This part shows the statistical result of how the interviewees find themselves satisfied with the Phonics Fun’s interface. It shows that more than 60% of interviewees thought that the interface is good or well done. They said that the flash animation was designed very funny and attractive. This general result of the evaluation in this part shows that the interface needs to be further variably developed, because there are still nearly 40% of interviewees thought that the interface has room for improvement. They thought that there are rather many blank areas in the interface and the use of color was not colorful enough. The overall responses are summarised below:

This part investigates how far the interviewees satisfied with the quality of Phonics Fun. More than 60% of interviewees were satisfied with the overall quality of Phonics Fun. They commented that Phonics Fun was a well designed system that has many useful functions, games and learning materials, and also the attractive animations. About 40% of interviewees thought that the quality of Phonics Fun was fair or poor. In their opinion, Phonic Fun contains too many exercises but very few games, students may easily get boring. The overall responses are summarised below:

This parts looks into the learning effect of Vowel A after using Phonics Fun. 75% of interviewees thought that after using Phonics Fun, their learning in that of Vowel A was enhanced. The image of Vowel A was strengthened in their mind. They thought that the teaching methods used in Phonics Fun were interesting and not as boring as traditional teaching methods. The overall responses are summarised below:

Conclusion and Future Development

“PHONICS FUN” contains multimedia, set of materials, practical exercises, assessments and lists of achievement to help encourage and enhance user’s self-learning. As proved by comparisons with different kinds of phonics and other related systems, it is understandable that a popular system is one which has rich materials, colourful image and animation, a great diversity of exercises and assessments of progressiveness and final product. To surmount the currently variable Phonic learning system, not only the functions mentioned above have been developed, more advance function such as the game of Roulette Match has also been built. In that sense, Phonics Fun has achieved the above requirements.

The merits of this project has been summarised in the following:

Minimize data size

Most of the components of PHONICS FUN are made by Flash, but most of the data such as sound files are not statically imported into the file. When the sound object is called, the system will only pass the sound file to the client side.

Reusable

Most of the components are built in models; teacher can easily enter a set of data to reuse the function. For example, in Vowel Scramble, as far as teachers prepare exercise title, vowel name, letters, and possible answers, the system will automatically reuse the base model to prepare for new exercises.

Updatable

An exercise management platform has been developed to add and update information and details.

After collecting users’ opinion, the following describes some items which can be extended if possible in the future.

Advanced model in exercise and assessment

The model now has been set into specific format. The diversification of them is not rich enough. In advanced model, For example, teachers can choose either head, last or the middle set of letter to be filled in by students.

Sound Recognition

Developing sound recognition can help to provide more and more interactive learning tools. For example, student can follow a word to pronounce, the system will check which vowel or which part is not spoken correctly. Either score or percentage of the accuracy can be given to students.

Rich “PHONICS FUN” materials

According to the evaluation of users, they expected that the materials of PHONICS FUN to be richer. For example, if each e-book has their own main theme exercise, it makes the e-book seems more appealing.

Copyright Wu Hiu Man and Vanessa Ng 2011

Publication

S. C. Ng, Andrew Kwok-Fai Lui and H M Wu, “Phonics Fun: An Online Platform for Primary Students to Learn Phonics”, in P. Tsang, et al (Eds), Enhancing Learning through Technology: Emerging Research on ICT in Teaching and Learning, City University of Hong Kong Press, July 2011, pp. 93-110.

Online Demonstration

Jonathan Chiu
Marketing Director
3DP Technology Limited

Jonathan handles all external affairs include business development, patents write up and public relations. He is frequently interviewed by media and is considered a pioneer in 3D printing products.

Krutz Cheuk
Biomedical Engineer
Hong Kong Sanatorium & Hospital

After graduating from OUHK, Krutz obtained an M.Sc. in Engineering Management from CityU. He is now completing his second master degree, M.Sc. in Biomedical Engineering, at CUHK. Krutz has a wide range of working experience. He has been with Siemens, VTech, and PCCW.

Hugo Leung
Software and Hardware Engineer
Innovation Team Company Limited

Hugo Leung Wai-yin, who graduated from his four-year programme in 2015, won the Best Paper Award for his ‘intelligent pill-dispenser’ design at the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineering’s International Conference on Consumer Electronics – China 2015.

The pill-dispenser alerts patients via sound and LED flashes to pre-set dosage and time intervals. Unlike units currently on the market, Hugo’s design connects to any mobile phone globally. In explaining how it works, he said: ‘There are three layers in the portable pillbox. The lowest level is a controller with various devices which can be connected to mobile phones in remote locations. Patients are alerted by a sound alarm and flashes. Should they fail to follow their prescribed regime, data can be sent via SMS to relatives and friends for follow up.’ The pill-dispenser has four medicine slots, plus a back-up with a LED alert, topped by a 500ml water bottle. It took Hugo three months of research and coding to complete his design, but he feels it was worth all his time and effort.

Hugo’s public examination results were disappointing and he was at a loss about his future before enrolling at the OUHK, which he now realizes was a major turning point in his life. He is grateful for the OUHK’s learning environment, its industry links and the positive guidance and encouragement from his teachers. The University is now exploring the commercial potential of his design with a pharmaceutical company. He hopes that this will benefit the elderly and chronically ill, as well as the society at large.

Soon after completing his studies, Hugo joined an automation technology company as an assistant engineer. He is responsible for the design and development of automation devices. The target is to minimize human labor and increase the quality of products. He is developing products which are used in various sections, including healthcare, manufacturing and consumer electronics.

Course CodeTitleCredits
 COMP S321FAdvanced Database and Data Warehousing5
 COMP S333FAdvanced Programming and AI Algorithms5
 COMP S351FSoftware Project Management5
 COMP S362FConcurrent and Network Programming5
 COMP S363FDistributed Systems and Parallel Computing5
 COMP S382FData Mining and Analytics5
 COMP S390FCreative Programming for Games5
 COMP S492FMachine Learning5
 ELEC S305FComputer Networking5
 ELEC S348FIOT Security5
 ELEC S371FDigital Forensics5
 ELEC S431FBlockchain Technologies5
 ELEC S425FComputer and Network Security5
 Course CodeTitleCredits
 ELEC S201FBasic Electronics5
 IT S290FHuman Computer Interaction & User Experience Design5
 STAT S251FStatistical Data Analysis5
 Course CodeTitleCredits
 COMPS333FAdvanced Programming and AI Algorithms5
 COMPS362FConcurrent and Network Programming5
 COMPS363FDistributed Systems and Parallel Computing5
 COMPS380FWeb Applications: Design and Development5
 COMPS381FServer-side Technologies and Cloud Computing5
 COMPS382FData Mining and Analytics5
 COMPS390FCreative Programming for Games5
 COMPS413FApplication Design and Development for Mobile Devices5
 COMPS492FMachine Learning5
 ELECS305FComputer Networking5
 ELECS363FAdvanced Computer Design5
 ELECS425FComputer and Network Security5